Asked whether this experience will dampen his political activism, Wonder Mkhonza replies “Of course not! The threat of jail can no longer dent our spirit as we push for democracy in Swaziland”.
After a month in prison on charges of sedition based on allegations of being in possession of political pamphlets, Mkhonza was granted bail of about USD1,750 and warned not to disrupt the elections when he was released.
Wonder did not dwell on hardships he faced in prison, immediately seeking out positive aspects of the experience. “I was able to interact with the inmates in jail and understand their frustrations and their challenges. Some are there serving long sentences as they cannot pay even R250 (USD30) bail. When we achieve freedom in Swaziland, we must not forget to address their needs too, ensuring a humane new nation.”
What Mkhonza valued most of the experience was the opportunity to give solidarity to political prisoner Amos Mbedzi . “I was able to meet with Comrade Amos who serving an 85 years sentence in the maximum security prison on allegations of terrorism. Amos could have been living freely in South Africa but he chose to sacrifice his freedom because he understood that the freedom of South Africa is not complete if Swaziland is not free,” said Mkhonza. “We must not forget that he is in jail, his sacrifice must not be in vain and we must do everything to honour this sacrifice and ensure that there is democracy in Swaziland”
Mkhonza is Deputy General Secretary of the Swaziland Processing, Refining and Allied Workers Union (Sprawu) and the chairperson of the coordinating council of the manufacturing unions which are working towards a merger in Swaziland, a process supported by IndustriALL. IndustriALL joined efforts in Swaziland and internationally to draw attention to Mhkonza’s situation and secure his release.
South African affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa assisted Sprawu to make the bail. The international department of Numsa has been working closely with Wonder in support of the merger process.
“I appreciate the support that was given to SPRAWU, PUDEMO and to me and family personally” said Mkhonza. “Thank you also to our international allies who mobilised support for my release and their continued commitment to give solidarity to our struggle for democracy in Swaziland.”
Wonder is ready to get back to work building unity amongst workers and struggling for a free Swaziland.